Wojtek Wolski is on pace for 71 points after getting 42 last season. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
I never like coming up with trade possibilities because the attempts are futile and the unexpected always happens, but I can’t get this thought out of my head.
It doesn’t appear to be an option and I’m not convinced they’d be prepared to make this type of move yet, but what are the chances the Colorado Avalanche get Ilya Kovalchuk at the deadline?
The Avs are performing much better than anyone thought they would and currently sit third in the West. Even though they are one of the worst teams in the league in shots allowed per game and rank dead last in shots for per game, the Avs are top 10 in both goals-against average and goals-for average. They could use a boost anywhere outside of the blue ice and have a legitimate Cup opportunity.
As it stands, the Avs have about $7 million in cap space with veterans Darcy Tucker ($2.25 million), Adam Foote ($3 million) and Ruslan Salei ($3 million) coming off the books at season’s end. It’s assumed the Thrashers will need NHL-ready talent as part of a return, so more salary would come off Colorado’s cap through the trade.
Keep in mind the Avs have a history of being shrewd, under-the-radar dealers. When Pierre Lacroix was building championship teams he surprised by acquiring Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque and Rob Blake in separate years. And even though Greg Sherman holds the GM title now, Lacroix is the president of the club and holds sway within the organization. Sure this team isn’t as close to the Cup as past teams were, but we’re also talking about acquiring a superstar in his prime, not a veteran on his last legs.
Let’s start with the disclaimer that Don Waddell has to let Sherman talk with Kovalchuk about the likelihood of an extension. If there’s no indication he’d back off from his current demands, I don’t think anyone should go after him, but it’s certainly possible the superstar would sacrifice green from his wallet for green in his pastures. Great players have played in, thrived and loved Denver before him and it’s proven to be a hockey town – at least when times are good – and one to raise your young family in, like Kovalchuk’s. Would it really be out of the realm of possibility for Kovalchuk to sign there, especially given how they’re on an upswing?
My proposal is this: RFA-to-be Wojtek Wolski, Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Stoa and a first round pick for Kovalchuk and 37-year-old pending UFA Slava Kozlov. Considering the return Waddell got for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis two years ago it’s a similar type of trade with better talent.
Colorado would pick up a franchise player in his prime and an experienced Cup-winning veteran for one playoff push. They’d be up near the cap for this season, but would drop a few overpriced UFA veterans in the off-season and have Brett Clark as their biggest UFA to re-sign. Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene are signed for a couple more years and the youth still coming through includes Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Hensick among others, not to mention the plethora of 25-and-under talent currently on the roster (Brandon Yip, Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Kyle Quincey, Kyle Cumiskey, etc.).
Atlanta would get a 23-year-old on pace for 71 points, a surprising 18-year-old who’s sustained his title as NHL regular and some strong futures assets as they continue the perpetual build up. Not to mention, they’d shed some salary for the rest of the year and rid themselves of two UFAs for one RFA.
Kovy and Kozlov would both be upgrades for Colorado as the chases tighten and the playoff season rings in, not to mention how keeping Kovalchuk for the long-term would really be a nice add for a once-great franchise emerging, but lacking in ticket sales.
I’m not suggesting it’s being discussed, nor am I saying it’s a deal the Avs have to make. Colorado has been in a cost-cutting mode this year, though a home-ice seed in the West could inspire a new horizon; we’ve seen that mentality before. If another contender bids over the top and changes the marketplace all bets are off. I certainly don’t think any players going to Atlanta are deal-breakers and I don’t agree the Avs are sacrificing depth now or later in this move.
I just can’t shake the idea that Lacroix and his crew are laying low, ready to make a splash like the good old days.
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